Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cookbooks: Grill Every Day and Patio Daddy-O at the Grill

For the busy household with no extra time for fussing in the kitchen, the importance of grilling food can not be overstated. Though it’s possible to spend a lot of time preparing the food that will end up on your grill, as Diane Morgan shows us in Grill Every Day (Chronicle Books), quite often the very best foods are the simplest to prepare.

Take, for example, Lemongrass-Grilled Lamb Loin Chops. Basically, you get the grill hot, massage the chops with pre-prepared lemongrass paste, grill four minutes per side for medium-rare and -- voila -- a meat course for four.

But wait: man (and woman) does not live by meat course alone. There are loads of great vegetable and starch recipes for the grill here, as well. Some of them just as simple. Asparagus Spears would be a natural with those lamb chops. The book has us grab 28 spears, prep as instructed, toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper, grill and -- voila again! -- dinner is served.

Grill Every Day is a great book. Subtitled 125 Fast-Track Recipes for Weeknights at the Grill, the recipes here range from super easy to super, duper impressive and accommodate every taste and food restriction. I’ve seen a lot of grilling books in my time. Grill Every Day ranks with the best of them.

The same can not be said for Patio Daddy-O at the Grill (Chronicle Books) by Gideon Bosker, Karen Brooks and Tanya Supina. A sequel to a seminal food and lifestyle book published in the mid-1990s, Patio Daddy-O at the Grill offers up the same self-conscious cool that the original Patio Daddy-O brought to the table, only now it feels like more of the same: only with fire.

Lines like, “At heart, every guy is a pyromaniac, and the outdoor pit is where you get away with it,” seemed funny in 1996. Now it just seems tired. “Don’t get hung up on designer grills. A grill is just a grill.” Yeah, yeah. You see what I mean?

Ditto the art, which is sharp, well done, yet seems not to have evolved very far from the original. Most painful, I think, is that there has been a cookbook revolution over the last dozen years but you can’t tell from Patio Daddy-O at the Grill. Recipes seem overly wordy and even simple things are much more complicated then they need to be.

If you can work your way through all of that, a few of these recipes are absolutely top-notch. I really love the Tropical Fruit Salsa Tuna Sticks: and they’re not as difficult to prepare as would first appear to be the case. And the Emergency Grilled Pound Cake Extravaganza is very good… you can just call it something else.

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